Today was our official first day of work, and it was most definitely lots of work. I am not sure what I was expecting exactly, but this is definitely not easier than ditch digging…it is simply a different kind of hard in that there is so much more process to make sure is right. Let me walk you through the building of an Eco stove:
A pre-built foundation
First, the mix is made by sifting the crushed rock through a large screen, pulling out the bigger rocks. Second, the sand is sifted, then the clay. A specific bucket amount of each of these materials gets mixed into a pile, after which water is added, then the molasses. This mixture is then blended using a combination of shovels and feet. Yep – my childhood dreams of either grape stomping or playing in mud came true today. My feet now feel as soft as a baby’s bum.
Anyway. This is now the completed mortar mix. A 1″ layer of this is spread on top of the foundation, then a specific pattern of bricks are laid with a thumb’s width gap between them, according to the needs of the specific family. Mortar mix is then thrown in between the bricks, filling the gaps, and prepping for another 1″ layer of mortar. The final layer of bricks is then installed, with both normal bricks and special hollow bricks, which allows heat and smoke to travel in between cooking areas inside the stove, and ultimately out the chimney. Specific gaps are left for cooking plates, and the mortar is built up around them, to create a tight seal. Mortar mix is then spread all the way around the stove, creating an aesthetically pleasing and smooth finish. Ta da! An Eco stove is born.
Now that you know how they are made, let me tell you about who we made them for. In order to maximize efficiency, we split into two teams of five and set off on a grand adventure. For clarity’s sake, team A will be known from here on as “Team Carrot Pumpkin.” Team B will be known as “Team Barber Shop.” There have been some officially unofficial competitive comments thrown about today, with possible exaggeration on what has actually been done. In all, we finished three stoves, and finished the first layer of two more! Woohoo!
Team Barber Shop (my team) set out to our first home. When we walked in, we were warmly greeted by a delightful woman named Francisca, and her husband, who will remain nameless because I forgot to ask his name. She had lived on the property for 65 years, and had raised three kids there. My favorite part about her house was how personalized it was. They say that a house isn’t a home until you hang pictures – and man. She had pictures! On the wall outside her door, she had a photo of Pope John Paul II, some family members, and a Christian poster. Inside her house, she had a large array of pictures of her family members, which she excitedly told Serena about.
The cool thing about our first location was that it was actually two locations in one. Right next door was one of Francisca’s daughters – Reselda, her husband Carlos, and their adorable little baby. Through the course of the morning, we ended up with a little down time, which gave Serena the brilliant idea of asking if Reselda needed help with anything. Next thing she knew, Serena was doing dishes right alongside Reselda. What a beautiful picture.
Team carrott pumpkin started off the morning with a visit to the home of Francisco and Maria, ages 85 and 80, prospectively. They were married when he was 25 and she was 19. Together, they have 12 kids, six boys and six girls. Unfortunately, two of her daughters passed away a while ago. She was kind enough to show pictures of one of them – Nora Elisa.
Maria and her husband have never left each other for the duration of their marriage. In fact, they can’t even remember the year that they were married!
Many of the younger women I’m the village are amazed with Maria, as she keeps up with them when they walk to the village. She only eases natural foods, because she doesn’t like the chemicals that are added to food in bigger food chains, such as McDonald’s. This dislike of fast food pays off when she visits the doctors, as they are amazed at her continued health.
The addition of the Eco stove to Francisco and Maria’s home will not only benefit the two of them, but also a few of her sons and grandchildren that reside with them. A couple of hours of work on our end will provide that family with cleaner air to breathe!
The second family that team “Carrot Pumpkin” helped had a very recent tragedy strike. Elena, the mother, told the team through tears about how her 16 year old daughter passed away just a month ago. The daughter, Linda Lisette, died of a rare brain tumor that caused her brain to continually grow. No one in the area had seen anything like this before. Unfortunately, the tumor ended up taking her life, and the grief from this still lingers in the family.
Through her grief, Elena was glad an Eco stove was being installed in her house. Not only was the team able to build a stove, but also play with the kids, and pray with the family. If you think of Elena, please pry for her and her family as they grieve the loss of Linda Lisette. Elena is grateful for your prayers!
The third family that team Barber Shop visited was the most ready to help family that we have encountered yet. The father of the young family’s name was Jaime, his wife was named Reselda, and their absolutely adorable little girl was named Kimberly. As we walked onto the property, I noticed how they had been cooking – Reselda had a Jerry-rigged stove made out of a metal barrel, and she was boiling some corn. It is so cool to think how much we are helping this family through building them a stove. She will be able to prepare more food at the same time, and it will keep little Kimberly breathing clean air.
Due to time and material constraints, we only were able to get the first layer of the stove completed. We had a lot of fun figuring it out, as the diagram scale was off on the blueprints. It reminded me of figuring out Lego blueprints. Flashback to childhood!
Team barber shop had a fantastic tag along. I remember him from last year, and he was so willing to come help in any way possible again this year! His name is Erwin, and he has the most energy of any kid I know. We had a lot of fun stomping the mortar mix together, flinging it on each other, and making smiley faces in the mix once it was on the bricks. He is a good kid.
And now for quick stories in rapid succession.
Today, Michelle almost found her man. A young teen walked up to Michelle and asked how old she was. When Josh asked the kid if he liked michelle, he turned bashful. When he later found out that Michelle was at least six years older than him, he slowly sneaked away, defeated. I guess today wasn’t his lucky day after all.
Random thing that we learned today – Luke is a dog whisperer, and can catch lizards.
Josh also gave Erica a heart attack at one point when he told her with a stone face that he gave her phone to a local boy, who had run off already. After holding a beautiful few seconds of dramatic tension, he pulled the phone out of his pocket.
Random occurrence of awesome – Jayger and I were working on Relda and Carlos’ stove, and had just finished smoothing out a layer of mortar mix. Jayger went over to wash his hands off. I happened to look at Marvin, who brilliantly made the universal signal for “quick, put some mud on him!” So I did. I placed my dirty hand smack dab in the middle of his left cheek, leaving a beautiful mark. I guess I now have payback coming…..hmm.
The ride to and from the work site was so entertaining! Last year, I showed a picture of Tim in the back of a transport truck. Well, this is the year that we finally got to ride in one! I think it was almost as fun, if not slightly more fun, than a roller coaster (with exception of going upside down). The roads from San Jacinto to El Progresso, where we were building the stoves, are by no means smooth. In fact, one of willow’s continuing projects in this area is fixing those roads! I can totally see why they need it now!
At max, our speed was maybe 15 mph. At the slowest, we were coasting due to rough terrain. Mind you- we were all standing in the back of the truck holding on the outside with our hands. Sound fun? It was! The view was one of the best parts – it reminded me of being In North Carolina, as the distant mountains took on a slightly blue haze, which got lighter the further away they are.
Overall, it has been a fantastic day. We are now all tired, showered, and ready to go to dinner. My latest adventure has been killing ants, as they made their way onto my bag in the van, which I ended up setting on my bed. Twins will come to be know in my mind as the ant massacre of 2013. Today, many ants died because of their mistake to crawl onto my bag, and get off on my bed. D I hear taps playing softly in the distance?
Until tomorrow, friends!
Check out the next post for a gallery of today’s photos!